It’s safe to say that the phrase ‘fine wine’ has a lot of baggage. Red trousers, cobwebs on wine, crumbling corks. I’m pleased to report that none of this is true: the world of fine wine is vibrant, exciting and delicious. And, chances are, you’re already drinking it. Read on for five myths about fine wine.
So, what is fine wine? It’s a tricky question to answer, not least because it’s not a dictionary-defined term. It’s universally agreed that fine wines are wines of exceptional quality, made from brilliant fruit, grown terroir that’s a cut above the rest. The rest is pretty subjective: whether someone considers a wine ‘fine’ or not depends on many factors, including price, grape variety, how old the wine is and the perception of the winemaking region it comes from. So, because no one may ever pinpoint exactly what fine wine is, we’re going to tell you what it’s not by debunking five tired myths about the stuff. You’re in for a few surprises, and maybe even the stunning realisation you’ve been a fine wine devotee all along.
- Not all fine wines are French
Yes, some of the most coveted and expensive fine wines hail from the likes of Bordeaux and Burgundy, but, as you’ll soon learn, price and rarity don’t mean everything. You can find high-quality wines across the world – from lesser-explored countries like Hungary and Austria to winemaking institutions like Spain and Italy. ‘The niche wine regions are home to fascinating indigenous grape varieties, such as xinomavro and assyrtiko for Greece,' says buyer Matthew Horsley, dedicated buyer of Greece, England and Hungary. ‘And each of them is capable producing fine wine of outstanding calibre. You’ll also find delicious pinot noir and cabernet sauvignon in places far, far away from Burgundy and Bordeaux, further proof that a wine doesn’t need to be French to be fine!’
- Not all fine wines are expensive
There’s a lingering stereotype that all fine wine has to cost hundreds of pounds, and thus only available to those who can afford them. However, you’ll be pleased to know that this is simply not true – there is value to be found across the fine wine regions. Toby Morrhall, our Burgundy buyer, certainly knows a thing or two about seeking value. ‘People bang on about how expensive Burgundy is, but there is plenty of good-value fine wine if you know where to look for it,’ he reveals. ‘My tips for Burgundy: seek out overachieving producers in the Mâconnais, lesser-known Côte de Beaune villages like Saint-Aubin and Auxey-Duresses and warm vintages in typically cooler regions.’
- Not all fine wine is old
Of all the stereotypes thrown around about fine wine, the fact that it needs to be of a certain age is probably the most prevalent. That it needs to have several decades under its belt for wine snobs to think it drinkable. But this is simply not true, according to Sarah Knowles MW, our buyer for Italy and Champagne. ‘There are many fine wines that you’re probably already drinking, but you don’t realise because they’re relatively young. Our Society’s Fino is probably one of the most complex things you can drink, and it’s under £10! There are also many fine wine producers who are purposefully making fine wines designed to be drunk young. Take the wines of GB Burlotto – yes, he has the expensive stuff that can be aged for several decades, but he always asks me to sell his Pelaverga cuvée the year he releases it – and that’s definitely a wine that he, and I, would consider a brilliant-value fine wine.’
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- Not all fine wine is red and white
Think fine wine, you don’t necessarily think of rosé. Although delicious, it has garnered a stereotype of being simple and reductive. But there are fine winemakers crafting rosé with texture, tension and complexity. ‘My personal definition of fine wine is a complex wine that can improve over time, and there are so many fine rosés that have this potential,’ says Matthew Horsley. ‘Winemakers like Thymiopoulos and Viña Tondonia are using a heavy extraction and exposing their rosés to oxygen to develop their complexity. More and more Provence rosés are being aged in oak, which brings a fuller body and more of a tannic structure – lending them really nicely to food. These fine, gastronomic rosés are becoming much more popular, and I’ll definitely be buying more.’
- They don’t all have corks
Finally, a myth that may surprise you: some fine wines are sealed with screw cap. It can be a great option for high-quality wines that are ready for drinking in the next few years, to preserve naturally fruit-forward flavours of certain styles of wine. ‘Screwcap can be a very smart option,’ reveals Freddy Bulmer, buyer for Australia, New Zealand, Austria and Eastern Europe. ‘Revered winemakers such as Michael Brajkovich MW of Kumeu River swears by screwcap. It removes the sense of uncertainty you may get with pulling a cork, and his chardonnays are up there with the best of Burgundy. Many people argue that screwcap can stunt the ageing of wines, but iconic wines such as Hunter Semillon are proof that this isn't true. Tyrrell's Vat 1 Hunter Semillon is one of the greatest white wines of the southern hemisphere and, as is the norm for that style, still evolves in the bottle. From vibrant, linear and youthful, to aromatic, savoury and ethereal in just a few years – all while under screwcap.’
As you can see, fine wine is much more approachable than you may first think. It’s not reserved for a select few with deep pockets – it’s ready and accessible to everyone who dares to give it a try. Armed with this knowledge, take a look at our fine wine hub and seek out your new favourite bottle. You’re more than welcome to the world of fine wine. Chances are, you were already in it.
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